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Take THAT All you Herringboners at the Hanson Hills Classic!
January 11, 2004 - By Mike Muha
 
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Snow conditions were a little dicey leading up to the annual Hanson Hills 12km Classic Race at Hanson Hills in Grayling Michigan. It appeared there wouldn't be enough snow to put in more than a very shallow track. Several inches of snow the night before and an excellent grooming job later, we had some very serviceable tracks on this hilly, 2 lap course.

The race is only a small race, but on the Michigan Cup Race Series circuit. Only 58 skiers came out for the event. One reason for the low attendance is that a 30 km Freestyle race is held at Hanson Hills the day before - and people are tired! My peaking plan for the Master Nationals stopped me from racing the long long event, so I was fresh for some serious striding.

The weather called for slowly warming temperatures from 0 to about 24F over the 24 hours leading up to the race, with maybe a little overnight. Everyone waxed accordingly. Turned out the weather man lied (again) - we had several inches of new snow and the temperature was right around 30. Instead of doing proper warm-ups, everyone was scurrying around trying to find the right kick wax.

As usual, I was a bit late to the race site. I had multiple layers of Toko Bright Blue (no grip), added Bright Red (marginal grip), and finally through on some Yellow - wonder grip! But I didn't have time to scrap my skis a rewax with just Yellow, so my ski dragged a little bit in the soft track from excessive layers of kick wax.

 For glide, Toko JetStream over HF Red worked fine.

I didn't feel great for my warm-up - I was stiff. A few minutes before the interval start I did a little stretching, which helped quite a bit. 5 minutes before my start time, I went out to do a few short sprints to get the blood flowing better. One minute to my start, I stuck my left pole between my legs during a powerful lane change. CRACK! Broken pole. I took off my skis, sprinted to my car, grabbed another pole, sprinted back, and missed my start time by 30 seconds. Fortunately, the race officials put me at the end of the line with a new start time, so I wasn't penalized. Unfortunately, I had grabbed the right pole for my left hand. Too late now.

 The sprint to the car and the extra adrenaline had me all worked up, and took off like a rock. In the first kilometer, I passed several people and sped up a long hill. I had great wax and quickly caught several more people herringbone up the same hill. It turned out the most people missed the kick wax and the tracks on the uphills were quickly destroyed by the herringboners. Me? I was striding just about every uphill, passing folks left and right. I was a little frustrated that the herringboners killed both sets of tracks even though there was room to herringbone on one side of the trail. Is there no trail etiquette these days?

 I was hitting the hills hard. I glanced at my heart rate monitor over the top of one hill and I was at 98% of my max heart rate. After the race, I was to find that I had spent 18 minutes above 95% of my max heart rate. I found I was going a little too hard, because I could keep my momentum going on the flats at the tops of hills. Instead of doublepoling the flats, I had to stride a few meters to catch my breath.

 Friends and the competition would say "Go Mike!" as I passed them (we have a friendly group of racers in Michigan!).

 I eventually finished 8th overall in 43:28, still pretty far behind first place (Dennis Paull, 38:11), but I felt great and put in a high quality session that should serve me well when I head off to National Masters. My average heart rate for the two laps was identical, with my second lap a little slower than my first.  

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